SCHOOLS WITH ON-SITE THERAPISTS
• Barger Academy of Fine Arts
• Spring Creek Elementary School
• Howard School of Academics and Technology
• Dawn School
Hamilton County Schools will beef up its school-based counseling services next year with the addition of two therapists/case managers.
The school system currently has three therapists in four schools to help students who have emotional, social and behavioral issues. Getting two more therapists helps keep such students in school and lightens the load on teachers and administrators.
No decision has been made about which schools the therapists will be assigned, officials said.
Spring Creek Elementary Principal Paula Burgner said her students' needs have escalated in the last two or three years. She attributed the increase to the poor economy and tough home situations.
"There's stress at home," she said. "Children may not say anything at home, but when they're at school, some of this comes out."
The therapists are employees of Centerstone, a Tennessee and Indiana nonprofit organization that treats mental illness and addiction. Services are billed to TennCare, so there's no cost to the school system.
Burgner said teachers view their school-based therapist as just another staff member.
"They look at her as if she's one of us," she said. "She belongs here."
Tracey Haveman, the therapist at Barger Academy of Fine Arts, said her small caseload allows her to give more attention to each child. Working with a small number of students also takes some stress away from teachers.
"With the number of students they have in the classroom, they don't always have time to work one-on-one with a child," she said. "I'm here for the teachers just as much as I am for the students."
She works with students with depression, ADHD, autism and anger management issues. Her days are spent meeting with students and responding to issues that might arise during the day.
Providing services at school minimizes the amount of class time students miss.
"If they were to go to an outpatient therapist, they'd miss half a day of school," Haveman said. "But here I have them for 30 or 45 minutes and they're back in class."
Beth Hail, Centerstone's director of School-Based Services, said the organization has provided such services for more than 20 years.
"It really helps the student become more successful in both areas of their lives, academically and emotionally," she said. "This really gives us the opportunity to reach students who might not otherwise get services."
Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...